There they go again…

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — Looks like the Vatican is still having trouble resisting the temptation to change Pope Benedict’s words to reporters on his papal plane.

Pope Benedict XVI waves from the entrance of an airplane departing for Africa from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome March 17. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI waves before departing for Africa from Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

When the pope spoke to us aboard the flight to Cameroon on Tuesday, he was asked about the use of condoms in AIDS prevention. His answer — including the statement that condom distribution increases the problem of AIDS instead of solving it — has been making headlines for days.

What the pope said (and what we ran in a translation from the original Italian in our story Tuesday) included this line:

“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.”

What the Vatican published on its Web site and in its newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was something different:

“One cannot resolve the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, there is a risk of increasing the problem.”

Even allowing for translation differences, the pope didn’t speak of a “risk.” He said what he said.

The Vatican made some other changes, too. For example, the pope said you couldn’t resolve the problem of AIDS only with money, explaining that assistance programs require a “soul” and spiritual help as well.

But in the official Vatican version, “money” was, strangely, replaced by the phrase “advertising slogans.”

Asked about the discrepancies, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the tape is normally transcribed and then the text passes through the Secretariat of State for slight editing — to put it into good Italian if there are discontinuous expressions. But modifying the meaning of what the pope said is not supposed to be done, he said.

Father Lombardi said he would have to verify what happened in this case and correct it if necessary.

A similar problem arose in 2007 on the plane taking the pope to Brazil, when the pope’s words to reporters about excommunicating Mexican politicians who had voted to legalize abortion were toned down in the official Vatican transcript.

8 Responses

  1. Dear CNS,
    Re: ‘There they go again.’
    Your article side-swiping Pope Benedict XVI with alarmist commentary about Vatican translations into Italian speaks to the current attack on this Pope from within the Church. You fear a direct attack so you go for the flank movement.
    Academia and much of Catholic media cannot rest to disrupt the vision of this Catholic Pope. He dares to be Catholic and reject the ‘spirit of the age’ you tend to embrace. The ship of Peter continues inside the reality. This Pope is a ‘Sign of Contradiction’.

    Michael F Brennan
    St Petersburg FL

  2. B XVI and his staff need a class in Media Relations 101. His 2006 comments on Islam, removing the excommunication on Bishop Williamson and his recent statement on condom use all show insensitivity and ignorance of facts. Every media disaster makes it easier for the public to dismiss even positive messages coming from the Vatican. Already there is speculation that no one is in control on Vatican Hill.

    Eventually the only media reporting Catholic news will be Church owned media outlets and the only stories carried by secular media will be Church controversies and scandal. B XVI and his Curia can either define themselves through the media with a sensitve and caring message or the media and the public will define them and it won’t be flattering.

  3. My fear is the stripped-down translations of someone in the Vatican press office act as an Americanized buffer of what is the truth. Since when did the Vatican became a bastion of Western culture (the American Church is crumbling under the blind eye to Humanae Vitae and slippery slope of NFP… tanamount to Catholic contraception), cow-towing to the “placate-my-emotions” whiners, who are scandalized by The Truth. What Benedetto XVI said is exactly the truth, so it sounds as if many (including those inside the press office) are scandalized by the truth. The Cross of Jesus Christ is a scandal.

    John, if I’m reading you right, you’re pointing out important inconsistencies that really get to the heart of our faith. Those are not small changes. Condoms do increase the problem (not just the risk of the problem), and Money (not advertising slogans) will not solve the problem.

    Why would the Vatican soft-toe this? That scares me.

  4. The fact is – latex has inherent holes in it – the Aid’s virus is much smaller than the smallest whole in the latex allowing the Aid’s virus to pass right though. Nobody cares about facts anymore – the epidemic was caused by lack of self-control encouraged by buying into a lie.

  5. The people responsible for reinterpreting the pope’s words shoud be sacked. Send a bishop or two off to man some out of the way parish for a few years. That might send a message to a few who want to placate the world.

  6. Condoms work, but they don’t come with a 100% guarantee. Does living a healthy lifestyle guarantee you or your children will never get sick – no. Abstinence is best but using a condom is better than playing Russian Roulette with unprotected sex.

  7. Bart, in no way condoms are better than anything else. Condoms are one of the main factors in the pandemic spread of HIV/AIDS, in that they make people believe that they have to change nothing in their lifestyles and that all they need is “safe” sex while it isn’t safe at all at least 1 time out of five(condoms failure rate is between 15 and 20%).

    That brings about a geometrical multiplication of at-risk beahviors and thus of infections because you have to multiply the failure rate by all condom-induced at-risk behaviors to have an idea of how much condoms contribute to the geometrical increase of infections. It’s simple statistics. Condoms – which make at-risk behaviors harder to eradicate – are THE instrumental factor of the AIDS epidemy.

    And the results speak for themselves: UN campaigns based on condoms have brought the infection rate up to 70-80% where implemented (starting from 20 to 40%). Campaigns – inspired by the Church where possible – based on abstinence and education to morals and family values have reduced infections from, 70-80% to 5-10%

    An example taken from the British Medical Journal, volume 328, April 10th 2004 :

    AIDS victims in 1987: Philippines 135 / Thailand 112

    In 1991 the WHO predicted the Philippines would have 80,000 to 90,000 cases and Thailand 60,000 to 80,000 AIDS victims.

    Thailand promoted the use of condoms in massive campaigns where Catholic Philippines promoted ‘Abstinence’ and ‘Be faithful’.

    The prognosis of the WHO was wrong for both countries: 1999: Philippines 1,005 / Thailand 755,000 AIDS victims”

  8. Condoms are not safe. i am living with the proof (HIV).

    For those of you who are unable to fully understand the Pontiff’s words, I am here to tell you. I am paying for my lack of vigilence and so are many others on this planet. There is no such thing as 100% safe sex these days except for when it is within the bounds of a loving monogomous marriage with a spouse who is without infection.

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